Constructing risk across timescales and trajectories

Gay men's stories of sexual encounters

Rodney H. Jones*, Christopher N. Candlin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores the way risk is constructed in the stories gay men tell of their sexual experiences. It focuses on how tellers use such stories to portray themselves both as rational actors and as legitimate members of their social groups by reconstructing the 'orderliness' of sexual encounters. An analysis of a corpus of stories derived from a diary study of gay male sexual behaviour in Hong Kong using current theories of discourse analysis reveals how narrators organize their experiences along two primary vectors of engagement: a sequential vector along which the trajectory of the sexual encounter is presented as a chain of occurrences, each occurrence contingent upon previous ones and warranting subsequent ones, and a hierarchical vector along which processes perceived on longer timescales are portrayed as exerting pressure on the ways processes on shorter timescales unfold. Examining how men portray these vectors in their accounts of risk behaviour can help us better understand both the situatedness of risk behaviour and the ways it is linked to larger social practices, identity projects and community histories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)199-213
Number of pages15
JournalHealth, Risk and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2003


  • Discourse analysis
  • Gay
  • Sexual behaviour

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